Mental health support wait time deemed 'shocking'
A child looks sad out of a window.

More than a quarter of a million children and young people are still waiting for mental health support after being referred to Children and Young People’s Mental Health Services (CYPMHS) last year, the Children’s Commissioner for England has revealed today.

Based on NHS England data using the Children’s Commissioner’s legislative powers, the annual report on children’s mental health found that almost 305,000 (32 per cent) children and young people referred to mental health services received support.

But 28 per cent were still waiting for support from mental health services, while almost 40 per cent had their referral closed before accessing support.

The report found that nearly 40,000 children experienced a wait of over two years.

Dame Rachel de Souza, Children's Commissioner for England, said: "This generation of children have faced uncertain and challenging times like no other generation before them – they are bombarded with negative world news, and many are exposed to the harmful impact of the online world.

"Against this backdrop, it’s unsurprising that so many children and young people are continuing to experience issues with their mental health."

She said that "children need environments – both online and offline – where they grow up feeling happy, safe and supported, and aren’t left to feel like second class citizens when it comes to accessing mental health support.”

The report revealed that the most commonly known referral reasons for children and young people were anxiety, followed by reaching crisis – demonstrating the severity of need many children are presenting with.

Shortcomings in NHS England’s data means that the most common reason for a child or young person to be referred to CYPMHS was ‘unknown’, which accounted for a third of referrals.

The Children's Commissioner is calling for support for children who do not reach the threshold for CAMHS, including through Early Support Hubs, Mental Health Support Teams, from school counsellor.

As well as this, they are asking for reforms to the Mental Health Act so that it is fit for the 21st century and accelerates the decrease in the number of children being inappropriately detained and restrained in mental health hospitals – with a view to supporting children at home or in the community.

James Bowen, assistant general secretary at school leaders' union NAHT, called the figures "shocking" and said they "lay bare the government's failure to ensure children get timely support in the community."

He said: "While school staff work tirelessly to support their pupils, they do not have the expertise or resources to provide all the help young people need."